Archive: a collection of records of a place
Action: the process of doing something

 In July, we asked if we could borrow, scan, photo or otherwise copy, any photographs, documents or artefacts that would represent Geddington’s history over the centuries.

Our aim is to create an online archive of our village.

We have divided all the wonderful material we’ve received into categories and for our second weekly article, the category is:


MAY DAY. The origin of the May Day festival was the celebration of the return of spring, probably originating in ancient agricultural rituals. It eventually became the custom to gather wildflowers and green branches, the setting up of a decorated May tree, or Maypole, around which people danced, and to crown a May queen and king.

Many parts of this custom are celebrated today by Geddington School. It is not clear when the school took on the custom, but it has been doing so for over 130 years. Some of the 1950s photos show the extent of the floral decoration which took place, including horses and carts.

The 21st century custom starts with schoolchildren bringing bunches of flowers to the school and, in recent years, dressed in Victorian costume, taking them around the village and giving them to people of pensionable age. (As I’m one of those on the receiving end, I’m not about to say ‘old people’!).  Each group then sings the May Day Song to the recipient.

The Eleanor Cross is the natural gathering point for the afternoon’s event and, after a church service, the school parade down to the Cross, where parents and visitors are gathered. The May Queen has a Consort these days and several attendants, the number of which has varied over time. All look perfectly sweet in their especially made matching costumes, whatever their age. The crowning of the May Queen has always been performed by a lady and has included the Duchess of Buccleuch, the Mayoress of Kettering Borough Council, a number of school teachers, and ladies from the village.

The Maypole is the central figure in the afternoon’s proceedings and dancing around it either results in a beautiful plaited pattern of ribbons or a tangled cat’s cradle, depending on how much rehearsing has been done beforehand.


If you have any information, documents or pictures relating to the May Day custom in Geddington, please get in touch as we would like to have a record of each year’s May Day.

The Exhibition on Saturday 1st November is not the end of our Archive Project, most definitely not, it is just the start of what we hope will be an ongoing project over the next few years, that grows and grows as more material, and more research, bring fascinating facts to light.